WESTERN IMPERIALISM

 

"The Second Industrial Revolution coincided with an age of imperialism as European states extended their hegemony over much of the globe.  What accounted for the struggle of Europeans to claim and control the entire world?  Some historians suggest that the new imperialism  (to differentiate it from the colonialism of settlement and trade of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) was a direct result of industrialization.  With intensified economic activity and competition, Europeans struggled for raw materials, markets for their commodities, and places to invest their capital.  In the late nineteenth century, many politicians and industrialists believed that the only way their nations could ensure their economic necessities was the acquisition of overseas territories” (Perry (B.S.). 408).

 

I. Motives for European imperialism:

 

   1. economic exploitation [raw materials--rubber, tin, and oil not found in western nations; cotton, sisal, palm oil, ivory, cocoa, coffee, hides (Greaves 778) and markets for the finished products]:  But most colonies were not profitable for the nations.  In fact, much colonial territory was mere wasteland and cost more to rule than it was worth economically.  What drove countries to sustain such losses then was not profit but national prestige.  Business typically invested wherever they could make money, not necessarily in their own countries colonial empire

   2. aggressive nationalism (win glory for the nation):  Germany and Italy--and France too after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War--were convinced that Britain's status depended on colonies and naval power.  Therefore a race to empire developed as European nations competed against each other for colonies, especially for areas that provided ports and coaling stations for their competitive navies.  Not wanting to appear weak and having no status, the race was on to acquire an empire.

   3. racism and other ideas of national superiority:  Social Darwinists argued that all white men were better fit than non-whites to prevail in the inevitable struggle for dominance in which strong nations would survive and others would not.  This justified the rule of Europeans over other peoples.

   4. humanitarian concern for others:  Some believed that the extension of empire, law, order, and industrial civilization would raise "backward peoples" up the ladder of evolution and civilization.  An example would be the concept of “White Man’s Burden”;  that is, it was the duty of European Christians to civilize the savages of the world.   Yet, in their favor, it must be admitted that “Missionaries were the first to meet and learn about many peoples and the first to develop writing for those without a written language.  Christian missionaries were ardently opposed to slavery, and throughout the century they had gone to unexplored African regions to preach against slavery, which was still carried on by Arab and African traders.  But to end slavery, many of them believed that Europeans must furnish law, order, and stability” (Perry B.S. 409). So they are still convinced of the superiority of Western civilization, i.e., unable to separate culture and religion.

   5. a desire for adventure  (an interest is exotic places):  Individuals and nations competed to find the highest mountains, the longest river, the highest waterfall, the land never before see by white men!  Adventure!

  

 

II. Areas of European Domination  

   "Aided by superior technology and the machinery of the modern state, Europeans established varying degrees of political control over much of the rest of the world:  [1] COLONY: Control could mean outright annexation and the governing of a territory as a colony.  In this way Germany controlled Tanganyika (East Africa) after 1886, and Britain ruled much of India.  [2] PROTECTORATE:  Control could also mean status as a protectorate, in which the local ruler continued to rule but was directed, or "protected," by a Great Power.  In this way the British controlled Egypt after 1882 and maintained authority over their dependent Indian princes, and France guarded Tunisia.  [3] SPHERE OF INFLUENCE:  There were also spheres of influence, in which, without military or political control, a European nation had special trading and legal privileges other Europeans did not have.  At the turn of the century the Russians in the north and the British in the south, each recognizing the other's sphere of influence, divided Persia (Iran). 

      In some non-Western lands, the governing authorities granted extraterritoriality, or the right of Europeans to trial by their own laws in foreign countries.  Europeans often also lived a segregated and privileged life in quarters, clubs, and whole sections of foreign lands or cities in which no native was allowed to live” (Perry B.S. 410-411).

 

1. AFRICA

 

The most rapid European expansion took place in Africa, even though there was little interest in Africa up to the 1870's.  In fact, up to 1880 Europeans ruled merely 10% of the African continent.  Yet within 30 years, by 1914, European nations will have claimed all of Africa except Liberia (a small territory of freed slaves from the United States) and Abyssinia (Ethiopia), which had successfully held off Italian invaders at Adowa in 1896.

 

The Berlin Conference

  The reason for this rapid expansion in Africa was the international Berlin Conference called by Bismarck and Jules Ferry, the premier of France in 1884 to lay some ground rules for the development of sub-Saharan Africa.  Here it was determined that a European country had to occupy territory effectively in order to claim it.  Thus began a race to the interior of Africa as Belgians (Congo), French (most of W. Africa), Italians (Libya, Somaliland), Germans (SW Africa--Namibia, E. Africa --Tanzania, Cameroons, Togo) and British (lots of Egypt as protectorate--interested in Suez Canal, E. Africa & S. Africa) scramble for territory.  Unfortunately, they created unnatural straight boundary lines that ignored both natural and cultural frontiers, like tribal boundaries and rivers and mountains.  This has resulted in many conflicts between the emerging independent African states since the end of World War II.

   . 

 

South Africa

   "Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902), who had gone to South Africa for his health in 1870 and made a fortune in diamonds, and gold, dreamed of expanding the British Empire.  ‘The British,’ he declared, ‘are the finest race in the world and the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.’  Rhodes was responsible for acquiring Rhodesia [which he named for himself], a sizable and wealthy territory, for Britain.  [“By the 1880s, British policy in South Africa was largely determined by Cecil Rhodes” (Spiel.4th Ed. 733).]  He also plotted to involve Britain in a war with the Boers, Dutch farmers and cattlemen who had settled in South Africa in the seventeenth century.

   "During the Napoleonic wars, the British had gained Cape Town, at the southern tip of Africa, a useful provisioning place for trading ships bound for India.  Despising British rule and refusing to accept the British abolition of slavery in 1834, ;the Boers moved northward in a migration called the Great Trek (1835-1837), warring with the African tribes along the way.  They established two republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, whose independence the British recognized in the 1850's.  The republics' democratic practices did not extend to black Africans, who were denied political rights.  In 1877, the British annexed Transvaal, but Boer resistance forced them in 1881 to recognize the Transvaal's independence again.

   "The discovery of rich deposits of gold and diamonds in the Boer lands reinforced Rhodes's dream to build a great British empire in Africa.  In 1895, his close friend Leander Jameson led some 600 armed men into the Transvaal, hoping to create a pretext for a British invasion.  Although the raid failed and both Jameson and Rhodes were disgraced, tensions between Britain and the Boer republics worsened, and in 1899 the Anglo-Boer War broke out.

   "The Boers were formidable opponents--farmers by day and commandos by night, armed with the latest French and German rifles.  To deal with their stubborn foe, the British herded or "concentrated" thousands of Boers, including women and children, into compounds where some 25,000 perished.  After three years, the nasty war ended in 1902.  The British, hoping to live together in peace with the Boers, drew up a conciliatory treaty.  In 1910 the former Boer republics were joined with the British territories into the Union of South Africa.  Self-government within the British Empire for the British settlers and the Boers did not help the majority black population, who had to cope with the Boers' deeply entrenched racist attitudes” (Perry B.S., 420-1).

 

2. ASIA

 1) CHINA

 

  “Until the 18th c. , China had been the world’s most prosperous society and in many respects its most technologically advanced.  Printing, paper, and gunpowder were only a few of the inventions it had developed centuries before the West and it had pioneered such devices as suspension bridges, canal locks, water-powered mills and looms and mechanical threshers as well” (Greaves 794).  In fact, the West had nothing to offer China until opium addiction spread in China reversed the balance of trade in silks, tea, jade, lacquer and porcelain.

"An `Opium War' with China (1840-42) [broke out when a Chinese commissioner burned drug stocks and fired on British vessels carrying them.  British get Hong Kong and paid indemnity of $21 mil], occasioned by the efforts of the Chinese government to forbid importations of opium, delivered the island of Hong Kong into British hands.  The trade in opium, which was raised in India and sold in China to the considerable profit of the British East India Company, helped to produce a second Chinese War (1856-60).  By a joint offensive, Britain and France compelled the Chinese to pay a further indemnity, open new ports to trade, admit and protect Christian missionaries, and permit the traffic in opium.  As a consequence of this `Second Opium War' the British gained a foothold at Canton and established another sphere of influence in the Yangtze Valley”(Ferguson, 772).

   "...the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, which Japan won easily because of China's weakness, encouraged the Europeans to mutilate China.  Britain, France, Russia, and Germany all scrambled for concessions, protectorates, and spheres of influence.  China might have been carved up like Africa, but each Western nation, afraid of its rivals, resisted any partition that might possibly give another state an advantage.  The United States, which insisted that it be given any trading concession that any other state received, proclaimed an "Open Door" policy stating that trade should be open to all, and that the Great Powers should respect the territorial integrity of China.  The U.S. action may have restrained the Western powers from partitioning China, but it was also a way to ensure American interests in China” (Perry B.S., 415).

   The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1899):  The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (called Boxers by Europeans) attacked foreigners throughout the north of China, but the foreign powers combined to suppress the rebellion and forced China to accept foreign troops stationed on its soil.

   In 1911 nationalist revolutionaries, strongly present among soldiers, workers, and students, overthrew the Manchu and declared a republic with Sun Yat-sen as its first president [Sun Yat-sen, a scholar and political reformer, educated in British-ruled Hong Kong; realized benefits that Western science could offer his countrymen, but also realized deeply rooted traditions and ancient culture of China could not be changed over night], but a divided China (regional leaders with private armies and communists under Mao Zedong continued civil war) continued to be at the mercy of outside interests until after WWII.

 

2) JAPAN

  “In 1853, Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay, making a show of American strength and forcing the Japanese to sign a number of treaties that granted Westerners extra-territoriality and control over tariffs.”   = “Gun-boat diplomacy” or show of force.  Japan had been run by warrior dynasties but after embarrassment by the West, monarchy is re-established and Japan becomes a constitutional monarchy in 1889 (based on Germany’s constitution).  Now it developed Western technology by borrowing from the West and moving to a place among the top ten industrial nations while preserving its traditional values and social structure.  By 1900 it has ended the humiliating treaties with the West and become an imperialist power in its own right.

  “Whereas China with its incomparably greater human and material resources spent itself vainly in trying to expel ‘foreign devils,’ Japan, by embracing the West, not only retained its independence but became a world power in its own right” (Greaves 799).

 

3) INDIA

 

   In the last part of the eighteenth century, the British East India Company became a territorial power in India.  It gained the upper hand by making alliances with warring princes, by carrying on trade and collecting taxes and by commanding armies of native soldiers (sepoys).  Eventually the British East India Company was abolished and India was made an integral part of the British Empire [“After crushing the Great Rebellion in 1858, the British ruled India directly” (Spiel.4th Ed. 739).].  The British ruled some states through dependent Indian princes, but about two-thirds of the subcontinent was ruled directly by about a thousand British officials in the civil service.  By 1900, a civil service of 4,000 Europeans and half a million Indians (educated in English and trained in administration) ruled over more than 300 million Indians representing almost 200 language groups and several religions, races, and cultures.

 

(1) Positive results of British rule:

 

[1] there was at least some political unity--the end of internal war and disorder

 

[2] the British built a modern railroad and communications system and developed agriculture and industry to meet the needs of the world market.

 

[3] the railroad, as a link to areas of food surplus, reduced the incidence and impact of local famines, which had plagued India's history

 

[4] population increased as fewer people died of starvation and lives were saved by Western medical practices.

 

 (2) Negative results of British rule:

 

[1] they were ruled by foreigners

 

[2] the British flooded the Indian market with cheap, machine-produced English goods which drove native artisans out of business or even deeper into debt;

 

[3] racism excluded the Indian elite from British clubs, hotels, and social gatherings and from top government positions alienated even the older elite of princes and landlords who may have profited from British connections (British lack of respect for Indian traditions and culture)

 

(3) Result:  Indians began to push for independence.  Mohandas K. Ghandi (1869-1948) developed a doctrine of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance that--along with British exhaustion from World War II--would lead to Indian independence without a war between Indian and Britain (unfortunately bloody massacres occurred between Hindu and Muslim as India in partitioned into Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India).

 

III. Results of European imperialism:

 

1. the Westernization of non-Europeans

 

("Many non-European rulers became absorbed in westernizing or modernizing their people in order to maintain their own control.  The sultan of Turkey, the khedive of Egypt, the emperor of Japan and his advisors, and the emperor or empress of China are all examples of rulers who tried to cope with Europeans and Americans in this way” [I.M. to Perry, 139].)

 

2. resistance to Westernization

("With varying degrees of success, many non-Europeans resisted Europeanization with a variety of tactics, such as Gandhi's movement of resistance in India, the revolt in Mexico against Maximilian and later against primarily American business interests, and the proclamation of modern nationhood in Turkey [ibid.].) 

 

3. European interference into the affairs of a non-European area

(British in Egypt with Suez Canal; Americans in Philippines; British in Tibet, Afghanistan, and Burma as a result of being in India)

 

4. conflicts between the European powers themselves that would contribute to the outbreak f World War I.

 

5. the rise of nationalism in some peoples (Indians, Turks & Egyptians)

 

6. the exchange of technology, culture, and values between Europe and the rest of the world. (beginnings of the “global village”)